This is a tradition I started with my kids 2 years ago. It revolves strongly around my faith as a member of the LDS church, but the message is translatable in any faith. Some materials are LDS materials for which I've included links should you want to use them yourself.
A lot of these ideas were derived from my friend Catherine at Blue Stocking Mama. Some of them will be familiar to many of you (like the 12 symbolic eggs portion), but there are many other unique ideas included as well! So read on!
Fill 12 plastic eggs with these items, and label them in order from 1 to 12:
1.) small plastic donkey
2.) piece of bread/sacrament cup
3.) piece of soap
4.) drops of blood shaped from playdough (or just a small piece of cloth stained with red marker)
5.) 3 dimes
8.) cross made from toothpicks or popsicle sticks
9.) piece of white cloth
10.) spices (allspice or cloves tied inside a little piece of cloth)
12.) leave empty
Find a map of Jerusalem. Here's a link with a decent picture map included:
Have an Easter egg hunt... either hide all the eggs at once or do it one at atime, allowing your children to take turns hiding it for their siblings. (This way breaks up the sitting and listening part for especially young children. )
Open egg #1 - Read summary on back of GAK (Gospel Art Kit) 223 (Triumphal Entry). The Gospel Art Pictures are available for print if you are interested. Just click on the number and it will take you to a page where you can print the image from, and see the brief summary printed on the back of it. Make ahead or let kids themselves make palm leaves. (Using green construction paper, fold in half. Draw a semi circle from the folded center outward. Cut out. Cut "fringe" along curved edge. Unfold and glue a popsicle stick for the stem.) Give each kid a palm leaf and let them practice saying "Hosanna! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." Find Bethany, Bethpage and the Mount of Olives on the map and place stickers on each. Explain that the journey for Jesus to Jerusalem was 2 "furlongs" or miles.
Open egg #2 - Read summary on back of GAK 225 (The Last Supper) and explain that our Easter feast will be symbolic of the Last Supper, but the sacrament we take every Sunday was put in place at this very moment in time.
Pass out raisins, french bread and juice - kids may also dress up in robes if they'd like.
Open egg #3 - Read summary on back of GAK 226 (Jesus Washing the Apostles' Feet).
Open egg #4 - read summary on back of GAK 227 (Jesus Praying in Gethsemane). Find Gethsemane on the map and place sticker.
Open egg #5 - Read summary on back of GAK 228 (The Betrayal of jesus).
Open egg #6 - talk about friendship and loyalty; How is Jesus loyal to us? How can we be loyal to him? How can we be loyal to those we love? Have kids try on "Jesus sandals". (they're just paper cutouts) And sing "I'm Trying to be Like Jesus".
Open egg #7 and #8 together - Read summary on back of GAK 230 (The Crucifixion). Let the kids smell/taste vinegar. Find Golgotha on the map and place sticker.
Open egg #9 and #10 together - Read summary on back of GAK 231 (Burial of Jesus).
Open egg #11 and #12 together - Read summary on back of GAK 232 (Jesus' Tomb).
Make "Resurrection Rolls" (recipe courtesy of All Recipes):
1 (10 ounce) can refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
8 large marshmallows
1/4 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons white sugar
1.Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly grease a baking sheet.
2.Separate crescent rolls into individual triangles.
3.In a small bowl, mix together cinnamon and sugar.
4.Dip a marshmallow into melted butter, then roll in sugar mixture. Place marshmallow into the center of a dough triangle. Carefully wrap the dough around the marshmallow. Pinch the seams together tightly to seal in marshmallow as it melts. Place on a baking sheet. Repeat.
5.Bake in a preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
Sit and eat the rolls while watching "He Is Risen" ("Animated Stories from the New Testament")
Sing "Did Jesus Really Live Again" (I use these GAK pictures to go along with the words: 233, 234, 239)
Then talk about Easter the way we celebrate it. Have another Easter egg hunt, this time with candy inside the eggs. Sit down and discuss the origin (using pictures, i.e. clip art or coloring pages which are easy to print off the internet) of modern-day Easter symbols:
Eggs - represent life (in all living creatures, life begins with an egg)
Grass - the Garden of Gethsemane
Easter Bunny - derived from bunnies, lambs and other animals which symbolize new life during the Spring season
Lilies - the first flower to bloom after Christ died
Candy - the sweet and pure love of our Savior
Baskets - traditionally wooden, remind us of the cross upon which Christ was hung
New hat/shoes (clothes) - Explain that when I was a little girl, I always got a pretty, new, Sunday hat (one of which I kept, and will show my kids). The hat represents the humity we feel as we bow our heads in remembrance of our Savior. And new shoes, another tradition, represent the washing of the Apostles' feet by the Savior.
I think it would be nice to wrap up by saying that we should be mindful of all these things as we spend time with our loved ones on Easter Sunday, and express our gratitude to our Heavenly Father for the gift of eternal life by keeping a prayer in our heart.
Thanks again to Catherine for getting the creative juices really flowing! She's one smart mom!
Hope some of you can use a few of these ideas as well! I just think it is so important to take some of the focus off the secular nature of this sacred holiday.